One of the most exciting new varieties to be trialled recently by Scottish Agronomy – the largest operator of Recommended List and National List trials in Scotland – is the winter wheat, KWS Extase.

SA’s Andrew Gilchrist reckoned this variety signals the direction for agronomy in the future. He said: “We have been very reliant on synthetic agrochemicals to control pests and disease in the past. This technology is quickly being eroded because of developing resistance and also stricter legislation.

“I believe that plant breeding offers the best opportunity to maintain and increase yields and also reduce farming’s environmental footprint, which will be an increasing priority.”

KWS Extase is a good example of the improvements achievable through genetics and trials conducted by Scottish Agronomy in 2019 demonstrated the exceptional disease resistance and yield potential of the variety.

Finlay Hay, of Hay Farms, based at Easter Rhynd, Perth, is growing it for the first time this year on Scottish Agronomy’s recommendation. He has sown 9%, or 114ha, of his winter wheat area and hoped for impressive returns.

He said: “Based on how the variety performed in Scottish Agronomy trials, we would hope to cut out our T0 fungicide application and potentially also a T3 pass, which would save us 35% on our fungicide bill, plus the machinery, fuel and labour costs of spraying.”

He added: “The early spring T0 spray is always tricky due to weather conditions, so it is an ideal one to be able to cut out. From a management point of view, it is also at a busy time with spring sowing and frees us up to get on with other jobs.

“We are all trying to use fewer chemicals while maintaining yields and achieving decent gross margins, so the development of clean, new varieties, and the rigorous trialling of them in Scotland, is key to our business.”

Another advantage of KWS Extase is that it enjoys a wide window of sowing dates. Because it is so disease resistant, it can be sown early and because its vigour copes with being sown late too.

Mr Gilchrist pointed out: “Although this variety is not a perfect package, with some susceptibility to sterility and not suitable for distilling, it offers growers the opportunity to significantly reduce cost of production, which is the underlying principle behind the development work throughout Scottish Agronomy’s substantial trials programme.”

As shown in the chart, the trials compared KWS Extase with two well-known, established varieties, Lili and Barrel and the new variety showed no significant difference in the untreated yield versus four increasing cost fungicide programmes.

The untreated yield in KWS Extase was also higher than both other varieties which had received the fungicide applications.